The GCF recently wrote to the Gambling Commission about their unprecedented open letter to the Racing Post and delays to withdrawals. We have reproduced the response on those issues below:
We note that the GC do not intend to retract their open letter. They have also clarified their view on the problem gambling percentage numbers, which admittedly must be rather challenging when the regulator themselves admit that they have yet to define what ‘gambling harm’ is.
Thereafter, they go on to explain their view on delayed withdrawals. We remain concerned that 1% of withdrawals are not being processed without issue, as that would represent a significant raw number. The fundamental issue remains that guidance can be issued, but if there is no supervision or enforcement when this is abused, then rogue operators will continue to push boundaries to the detriment of ordinary gamblers.
‘With regard to your email of 20 September concerning my open letter to the Racing Post. I do not recognise your characterisation of my letter or the intention behind it. I can confirm it will not be retracted.
It is difficult to reconcile your stated desire for an evidenced based debate with a response to a letter which seeks to inform Racing Post readers about relevant evidence that the Racing Post had failed to share with their readers in line with standard journalistic practice.
The official statistics that we report on Problem Gambling from the Health Survey have always been based on the combined percentage as measured by either the DSM-IV or the PGSI. However to ensure that our letter is not used to suggest a combined PG/at risk figure is appropriate, we are going to repeat the warning on our website about using the figures in that way directly on the page that has the Racing Post letter.
On withdrawals, we know that delays to account withdrawals are a concern for some gambling consumers, as evidenced by the complaints and queries our Contact Centre receives about this subject. It is that volume of complaints that has led to our Business Plan commitment this year to review and, where necessary, update our approach to tackling non–compliance in this area. This means we’ll be undertaking compliance work to ensure consumers have access to fair and transparent terms and are treated fairly, including where restrictions are imposed on withdrawals. Data provided to us by some of the largest gambling companies shows that those firms approve, process and fulfil around 99% of customer withdrawal requests within 24 to 48 hours of the request being made. We’re aware however that the remaining 1% of withdrawals taking longer is still a lot of frustrated customers.
We updated our LCCP in 2019 to make clear that operators should verify a customer’s identity before permitting them to gamble, and that any information the operator deems necessary to verify identity should not be requested as a condition of withdrawal. This means firms should not request additional information from a customer, as a condition of a withdrawal, if the operator could have reasonably requested that information earlier. It is not acceptable for operators to introduce friction when a customer tries to withdraw from their account rather than the point at which they deposit into the account, or to place the operator’s commercial interests over those of their customers.
Our LCCP also acknowledges, however, that there may be occasions when an operator cannot reasonably ask for and obtain information on the customer at any point earlier than the withdrawal request – and that the operator may need to seek and obtain information on the customer at that time due to other legal obligations. This reflects the CMA’s earlier work on account withdrawal issues which also recognised that operators need to fulfil their general regulatory obligations (including eg anti-money laundering and fraud prevention obligations) – the CMA noted that while these obligations may justify a delay in payouts, they cannot justify confiscation of funds.
We can’t comment on the specific circumstances referred to in your email, and we would have to explore on a case-by-case basis whether an operator could or could not reasonably have requested information earlier.
In short, however, our expectation is that operators ask their customers for any additional information promptly where they have identified a need for additional information based on their risk assessment, and that such additional information should not be requested solely at the point of withdrawal. This is consistent with AML regulations and our published guidance on AML and POCA which require the ongoing monitoring of customer relationships by operators, and that risks are considered by the operator at all stages of a customer relationship.’
In the interests of transparency, it should be noted the first 2 paragraphs of the response to us concerned issues the GC has with social media posts by Steve Donoughue as an individual on a private Twitter account. As we have pointed out to the GC, and to other outlets on a previous occasion, Steve was brought in as a part-time advisor during our launch period. He has now moved on to other projects.